Underneath The Oaks

Elizabeth was Queen of the United Kingdom my entire life, and now Charles and Camille have taken the throne. I guess I never actually believed the Queen would die, maybe because her life seemed more like a fairy tale than reality. Sadly, as with all things, it has come to an end.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today. I just like to coalesce events when they’re happening simultaneously, but between the Oaks and the Queen, mingling might be a stretch.  

Years ago, when I first started publishing a blog, I committed to daily postings for one summer. And under the duress of extenuating circumstances, I almost quit. The end of summer was fast approaching when we experienced a troubling family event, and I was not only upset but confused and had lost my motivation to write.

My husband felt much the same (except about the writing), and our mutual anxieties were bouncing off each other as if a fierce game of racket ball, and can I just say, I was losing? 

So I did what I always do when I feel overwhelmed. I grabbed my computer and a cup of coffee and started walking to my mom’s condo in Los Gatos. It’s a seven-mile hike, the perfect escape, and if I thought it would do me good to put a little distance between me and my enmity, I was completely wrong.

Like the death of the Queen, it changed everything.

At the time, my Mom resided in California about five months out of the year for tax purposes, and the rest of the time, she stayed in her home in Washington. This left the condo empty much of the time, with an extra car parked in her carport. It’s a gated community, the grounds are lovely, and because they have an over 50 age requirement to live there, it’s extremely quiet.

The perfect place to retreat and lick my wounds. 

On my way to my safe haven, I made an unscheduled stop between the oaks. It’s my favorite spot on the trail. There are these two gigantic oak trees with limbs intertwined, surrounded by grass, with a view of the lake. 

I laid down right between the two trunks.

As John Lubbock says, “Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”

This ended up being true for me. 

For me, trees are sanctuaries. As Herman Hesse says, whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts. They preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

So deep! Maybe too deep before that second cup of coffee.

As I lay there relishing in my woes and my childish thoughts, I unloaded the entire gut-wrenching saga on the trees. They were ever so accommodating, not one interruption, only a cool breeze every now and then as they swayed over my agonizing tale. 

Hesse says the thing about trees can be found in the rings of their years. Their scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness, and prosperity are written in the rings. The narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. 

They are alive, they have memories, and they scar just like us.

I don’t know how long I basked in their comfort, but by the time I stood up, I was feeling absolved and fortified. The heaviness of my anxiety was replaced with a sense of worth. I kept hearing the words, stand tall, root yourself in your own values, and trust your heart.

Lying under those trees was a very fortuitous event for me because I remembered that I was a creation of God, and if this is true, then my labor is holy. So I picked myself up off the ground and decided this is how I must (try to) live.

I was so engulfed in these thoughts I don’t remember walking the rest of the way to moms.

After letting myself in and settling into one of the lush recliners, I turned on a podcast by Krista Tippett. She was interviewing John O’Donohue just before his unexpected death. They discussed things like beauty “as a rounded substantial becoming, as an emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth, and also a kind of homecoming for the enriched memory of your unfolding life.”

I was hooked. 

They declared that our most intimate relationships are truly an aspect of the divine. These are the people who love us deeply, who remind us of our goodness, and who help us to become our best selves. We should surround ourselves with these types of people.

I was sitting there thinking about how we awaken the best or worst in each other through the fruition of our inner selves when it became clear to me that the quality of people with whom I associate affects the quality of the person I am becoming. 

Damn.

After listening to the interview at least three times, soaking up their wisdom as if a sponge, I started writing and writing and writing. Then I ordered John’s book and posted the blog, tagging Krista. 

It was early evening when Larry showed up with a bag of Chinese food and a gracious apology.

He said, “I need you.” It was the question I had been immersing myself in for the better half of the day because how we show up for each other matters.

I said, “I need you more,” and by candlelight, we consumed pot stickers and cashew chicken. We sipped wine. We rested in the shelter of each other.

I woke up the next morning feeling as if I was a new person. I was no longer harboring all those anxious feelings, frustration, or anger. I was strangely calm and grateful.

And sort of on fire about forming a strong community of people I could both depend on and support in times of need. Some of you don’t know it, but I went after you with a shovel, I dug you in, sprinkled the ground with holy water, and planted a sign in the midst of my garden ~ Grow Damn It

I’m still charmed by the way you bloom. 

When I glanced at my blog hits the following morning, I thought something was wrong, as my numbers were off the charts and continuing to climb. 

What I didn’t know is Krista Tippett wrote on her Twitter account that she loved my blog. She linked my recent post at the top of her feed and went on a sabbatical for a month. 

She’ll never know how she changed my life. I kept at it because someone validated what I was doing. It’s so important to be seen in this world. To feel safe. Beloved. Trusted. 

On a training hike for the Camino, Larry and I returned to the trees yesterday. We sat down in the very same spot as I did all those years ago, and we listened. Well, I listened. He sort of waited patiently for me to indicate when I was ready to go.

I think the strength of a tree is trust, and as I learned on my first visit, this is also our strength. This experience changed how I show up for my communities and the time I spend cultivating friendships that matter. It changed how I understand my place in this insane world. 

Our strength is our community. We save each other. It’s mutual by design. Like tiling the soil, it’s the groundwork for successfully splicing lives, people so rooted in love they carve deep grooves of kindness in each other’s aging trunks. 

I love how Hesse says, “it is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother… Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.”

And someday, like the Queen, I will fall ill, and I know exactly who to call. Please don’t change your number! And when my children take the throne, I hope I am as beloved as the queen, who now lies permanently under the oaks. And that, my friends, is a proper mingling. 

It does not escape me that I was on my way to my mother’s when this all came to be. I was longing for home but what I discovered is home is something we carry with us. We offer it as a sanctuary to the ones we love. We open it to the suffering of others. It’s our source of great love, nurturing, and of course, immeasurable treasures.

I’m Living in the Gap, basking in the shade of wisdom, love to hear your thoughts.

40 Comments

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    1. From one tree lover to another, I think they communicate in the most profound ways, and you have to admire their rings of memories, and ability to connect at a root level. I imagine your palm trees were just beautiful! I would miss them too! Hugs, C

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  1. My favorite Beatles song Cheryl, so perfect for this lovely post.
    I know the John O’Donohue On Being podcast you listened to, we consumed it at one of our spiritual exploration discussions during the pandemic isolation, and I agree at how wonderfully expressed this was. It has stayed with me.
    Select your tribe carefully!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Dorothy, it is one of my favorites too, and I couldn’t believe how perfect the words were for what I was trying to express. I think John and Krista brought out the best in each other. He’s such an ethereal thinker, and she stayed right with him. After listening to their podcast several times, I started soaking up his magic, and it stayed with me too. He was an amazing thinker. I love how you put it, “select your tribe carefully,” so important. Thanks for joining me in the comments. Hugs, C

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  2. What a lovely post, Cheryl. So much of this spoke to me. I’m a tree hugger and there’s nothing better than a tree-bath, just letting their wonderful energy and essence and giving nature wash away the stress. I also love John O’Donohue and his books. Between trees and O’Donohue in a single day, you must have been transformed. And when the stress leaves, there’s room for joy and love. Hugs.

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    1. Thank you Diana, so glad this one resonated with you. I love that, “a tree-bath,” and that is exactly what I did without the bubbles. John O’Donohue is a great thinker and I wish he hadn’t left this world so soon. He said we should keep a picture of nature in our minds, one that we can pull up when we need to destress. And you right, when you are not being influenced by stress, a whole new world opens up. Thanks so much for adding your insights to the discussion. Hugs, C

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  3. This was so beautiful and it resonated mainly because I look at trees much the same way! When I’m lying out there on my yoga mat, during the final rest period after the torture of the twists and turns they make me do to my body, I look up at the birch trees above me and marvel at their existence. The blue sky above, the bird song in the air, the damp grass below me…and the branches slowly swaying in the breeze. It’s something very serene and powerful that happens when you’re rooted into nature below the shelter of the trees.

    Glad to see you still blogging! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can just see you Claudette, lying on your yoga mat, resting from the “torture” of yoga and staring up at the branches swaying in the breeze. A tree is an extraordinary life form and even though it might not be common to everyone I think trees can open our minds, relieve our stress, and nurture us in ways we’ve yet to fully comprehend. So glad you’re a mutual tree lover! I’m still home and therefore continuing to write. I leave in a few weeks for the Camino! Thanks for joining me in the discussion. Hugs, C

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  4. Cheryl, there are so many pearls in your blog, I don’t even know where to start. Actually I feel that way about most of your blogs, which is why I haven’t commented in awhile. I have SO many comments! Perhaps I should start my own blog, just commenting on yours! Haha. But no, you say it all, and so eloquently! I just have validating “me too” thoughts (but not in that #metoo kind of way), and I can’t begin to explain in a comment box how much your thoughts resonate with me and my own experiences. But just to mention a few….I am focusing on building deep friendships with people who are there for me. I am trying not to waste time anymore chasing friendships in which the other person is not a supportive, caring, loving, affirming, positive person in my life. I wasted too much time on the wrong people when I was younger (not that long ago!) and sometimes now I feel I’m starting over trying to build more healthy and committed friendships. I’ve also changed…as we do as we become “older and wiser” and found that some friendships don’t fit this older and wiser person I’ve become. Sometimes that is sad, but usually it happens organically. But here is the one problem I have been running into and unable to fix: Friends retiring and moving to another state!!! 😩 That is a hard one when some of your besties and part of your true “village” moves where they are not readily accessible except by FaceTime or Zoom…which doesn’t quite work out the way I hope it will.
    There…you see, I could go on and on! LOL. Your blogs are so insightful and relevant. Thank you for writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Delene, my sister of heart, so good to see your name appear in the comments! Life is so interesting. We all have unique and profoundly different experiences, but the importance of strong and supportive relationships resonates with most us us, along with the ability to process our conflicts/frustrations that are inevitable in life. Thank God for trees! I’m like you, the people in my life continue to shift. We had a gang of four couples when the kids were young and we spent most weekends on each others patios, all the kids were welcome, and the meals were all potluck. But recently, all of them have moved closer to their kids and grandkids and now live out of the area. We have to work hard to keep in touch and make time for each other but it’s worth it. I think that’s what makes these discussions so relevant because we’re all aging and learning to travel a new path. The journey is so much better when we don’t go it alone. I so appreciate your kinds words, how you share your thoughts, and enter into a meaningful conversation. Thank you. Hugs, C

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  5. You have the rare quality of inclusion in your writing. I walked with you to those Oaks, and understood why you sought sanctuary there. Then I carried on with you to the condo, not remembering the rest of the walk. The circle of lfe, of anyone’s life not just that of a privileged Queen, takes some understanding. But once you embrace that, then you can enjoy real contentment.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’ve missed you Pete. Welcome home! And thank you for walking with me to those ancient trees, commiserating with my need for sanctuary, and walking the entire distance to the condo. I so agree, we all have unique life experiences and it does take understanding to embrace our differences. We’ve all had to walk away from difficult relationships but they are usually the consequence of painful experiences and personal trauma. Life can be hard. And it’s true what you say, “the circle of life takes some understanding,” and I might add, acceptance. Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you LA. It’s crazy, because you inspire so many brilliant discussions on you blog, and I’m sort of tickled pink that I’m able to do that for you on occasion. Here’s to spending time with some majestic trees, hugs, C

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  6. What a beautiful description of quiet places, community and growing those we love. Your paragraphs about who we spend time with and how they bring out the best or worst in us are definitely on point. The time you spent under the trees is how I feel about my “cabin in the woods”. It is a sanctuary for me where my thoughts (good and bad) meet the quiet and beauty of a place created long before I ever existed. Your words … “home is within us” spoke to my heart. Going to let that settle in my soul for awhile. Thanks for always bringing a deeper look at life and the world around us. Wishing you a great weekend and Best Wishes! Leigh

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Leigh, thank you so much for your kind words. It’s interesting that as we age our primary relationships can shift and change so drastically. I never really considered the importance of the influence others had over me when I was young. I just wanted a place to belong, an invitation to the party, and someone to go to the movies with on the weekend. Now I pay attention to the people I surround myself with and consider who I am in their presence. I love that you have a “cabin in the woods,” to sanctify you and immerse you in the quiet you need. It’s so important especially if we want to evolve that interior sanctuary, “the home within us,” the one we open to those we love. Thank you for diving into these discussions and adding to our understanding. Hugs, C

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  7. Awww. Wonderful and touching post Neighbor! I know the trail well, very calming and reflective indeed. There are lots of trees along the way, but I’m guessing the trees you noted are the ones near Lark Avenue before the dam.

    🙏❤️🤗
    C.T.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Chris, we are so lucky to live near a charming creek trail that connects us with our neighboring towns. And yes, that is the spot where my trees live, they’re glorious, inviting, and ever so compassionate! I miss them when I away. Hugs, C

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    1. Thank God you’re here! Our quality meter is on the rise! And now we’re all professionally schooled in pickle ball which certainly adds to our caliber! Who knows what tomorrow will bring? xxoo, C

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  8. Very inspirational share Cheryl. The trees are lovely comforts, they listen without bias and give us a gentle breeze when we need. Often words aren’t required just familiarity. Hugs xx

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  9. What a beautiful and inspiring post Cheryl. When we had apple trees I put a hammock under two of them. I loved looking up at them especially in the spring when they were full of apple blossoms. The trees hummed with bees and hummingbirds and was so tranquil.

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  10. That song was featured in my very first post on my new blog if I recall correctly.

    This post was very timely in that I recently stumbled upon the fact that my idiot ex got married again last month, for the 4th time! Following this not unexpected revelation, I took a stroll down memory lane. Often in the past this has led me to tears and a lot of inner turmoil, questioning myself.

    This time, though, there were no tears as it made me realize how long I put up with his crap and how much better off I am now without him to which my BFF replied “Yeah. Congratulations. You have turned the corner to being yourself and moving forward.”

    This brought to mind the Garth Brooks tune The Dance. The chorus says it all for me.

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